Just so it is clear, canceling or postponing the election to pave the way for the extension of the terms of office of the President, Vice-President, 12 senators, district representatives as well as elected local government officials beyond June 30, 2022 is a clear violation of the Constitution.
Thus, any discussion or debate on this issue is an exercise in futility, if not a waste of time and energy.
Also, since the Constitution also provides that “elections for the members of Congress and local positions (except barangay officials) occur every second Monday of every third year after May 1992, and presidential and vice presidential elections occur every second Monday of May every sixth year after May 1992”, and that “elected officials, except those at the barangay level, start (and end) their terms of office on 30 June of the election year”, the proposal of the Commission on Elections to extend the May 2022 elections a day or two before or after the dates specified under the Constitution may face a constitutional challenge before the Supreme Court.
This is not to mention valid issues and concerns involving the security of the “secrecy and sanctity of the ballot” as also provided under the 1987 Constitution, as trending may occur if the ballots are not properly safeguarded.
At the end of the day, it is the Constitution that should guide all of us in this regard.
Stating his strong position on the issue before the community of nations, many of whom are leaders of countries that continue to grapple with the threats of terrorism, made it more significant.
Indeed, terrorism is a threat that knows no timing nor borders as shown in recent bombings in our own turf. This led us to pass the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 that contains the needed legal backbone to let our security forces implement the law with efficacy and confidence, even proactively – as well as the needed safeguards to curb potential abuse and violation of the 1987 Constitution.
At the hearing on the 2021 budgets of the Commission on Audit and Office of the Ombudsman, Sen. Lacson stressed the DBM has no authority under the Constitution to issue a discontinuance against a constitutional body such as the COA – after noting that the DBM issued a budget circular providing for the discontinuance of Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) of COA amounting to a total of P173M under the 2020 budget as they were categorized as congressional initiative and as “For Later Release.”
“My point is, Mr. Chairman, under the Constitution – particularly Sec. 5, Art 9-A, it provides for the automatic and regular release of the annual appropriations of constitutional commissions. And COA very clearly is one of three constitutional commissions, Comelec and CSC being the others. Of course even the judiciary,” Sen. Lacson said as he also cited jurisprudence (Bengzon vs Drilon, GR 103524), where fiscal autonomy allows the constitutional bodies and the judiciary full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. “So pag sinabi nating fiscal autonomy, walang pakialam ang DBM.”
COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said that while they are okay with the DBM’s decision “considering the difficulties the govt was having with funding in view of the pandemic,” he would agree that “it’s a violation of fiscal autonomy under the Constitution.”
“I’d like to manifest this very clearly, let this not serve as a precedent for future issuances by DBM; huwag lang gawing precedent setting ito. If I may add, emergency or no emergency, hindi pwedeng precedent ito,” Sen. Lacson said.
To Federico Pascual: Please allow us to set the record straight regarding some claims you made in your Sept. 6, 2020 column in The Philippine Star – including the suggestion that Senator Panfilo M. Lacson’s Senate bill enables President Rodrigo Duterte to “designate” who will succeed him.
To the Inquirer: Please allow us to set the record straight regarding the column of Prof. Edilberto de Jesus (“Dangerous distractions,” Business Matters, 9/5/20), where he touched on a proposed piece of legislation that aims to avert a potential constitutional crisis and leadership vacuum by extending the constitutional line of succession.
Dapat maisabatas na agad ang “Designated Survivor” legislation upang maiwasan ang constitutional crisis at pagkabakante ng liderato ng bansa sakali mang magkaroon ng ‘di-inaasahang pangyayari (“exceptional circumstances”) kagaya ng terorismo.
Ayon kay Senador Panfilo Lacson na naghain ng naturang panukala sa Senado, ang mabilis na pagsasabatas nito ay magsisilbing lunas sa limitasyon sa isinasaad ng Saligang Batas tungkol sa pagpasa ng liderato ng bansa o line of succession bunga ng mga ‘di-inaasahang pangyayari.
“Because of the failure of Congress to pass the necessary legislation in extending the line of succession beyond the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a constitutional crisis is possible if all four top elected officials, God forbid, die in one event such as the SONA due to a terrorist attack in the Batasang Pambansa, or any occasion where the President and all three officials in the line of constitutional succession are present,” paliwanag ni Lacson.
“If such a tragedy occurs, who will act as President until the next election of the President and Vice President, since the constitutional line of succession to the President stops at the House Speaker?” tanong ng mambatas.
To avert a potential constitutional crisis and leadership vacuum, the process to pass a “Designated Survivor” measure guaranteeing the continuity and stability of operations in government should be started immediately, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Monday.
Lacson said recent events involving “exceptional circumstances” such as terrorism illustrate the need to address soonest the limitations of the 1987 Constitution’s current provision on the line of succession.
“Because of the failure of Congress to pass the necessary legislation in extending the line of succession beyond the Speaker of the House of Representatives, a constitutional crisis is possible if all four top elected officials, God forbid, die in one event such as the SONA due to a terrorist attack in the Batasang Pambansa, or any occasion where the President and all three officials in the line of constitutional succession are present,” Lacson said.
“If such a tragedy occurs, who will act as President until the next election of the President and Vice President, since the constitutional line of succession to the President stops at the House Speaker?” he added.
“With all that said, I hope the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes and Laws will immediately conduct a hearing on Senate Bill No. 982, which I filed in August last year – or appoint me as subcommittee chairman, as I am willing and ready to sponsor and defend such an important piece of legislation on the Senate floor,” Lacson said.
This kind of “threat” worked in the past: Mighty’s P40-billion tax settlement; Philippine Airlines’ settling a P6-billion obligation to the government; the Mile Long property taken over by government; and the rehabilitation of Boracay, to name a few cases that did not need to undergo lengthy and expensive court litigation – and I would say has therefore served its purpose, rightly or wrongly.
Whether the government takeover of telcos is justified and compliant with the provisions of the Constitution, given the circumstances, is another matter altogether, however.
Having said that, telcos should treat the President’s pronouncement as a wake-up call to improve their services to the public, as one thing in the President’s statement on the issue is certain and true: that our country’s telecommunications services pale in comparison with our neighbors and with other jurisdictions in terms of speed and efficiency.
But what the President failed to issue is a similar warning to some local government unit executives who extort money from the telcos in exchange for permits and licenses as well as “protection” from delays in the construction of such facilities, especially in areas where the presence of armed groups like the CPP-NPA is strong.
And unlike their Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, our law does not allow one-party consent in the conduct of electronic or technical surveillance.
While our Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is replete with safeguards to ensure that human rights of suspected terrorists are observed and protected, what the US Congress passed as their version of an Anti-Terrorism law is much stronger, even cruel to some extent because their policy makers and citizenry give the highest premium to the security of their country and the protection of US citizens stationed anywhere in the world.